Communication crisis as head and demand fall

The London College of Communication has suffered a 28 per cent drop in undergraduate applications for 2012-13 - greater than almost every university in England.

March 15, 2012

The news emerged in the wake of the resignation of the college's controversial leader.

Last week, it was announced that Sandra Kemp had resigned as head of the LCC, with her departure attributed to "sustained media coverage" of events at the institution that had "threatened to make her leadership untenable".

Two weeks earlier, Times Higher Education reported that Professor Kemp had sought and received advice from the publicist Max Clifford in December after she had been criticised in a resignation letter by Gillian Radcliffe, the LCC's departing head of communications.

Professor Kemp's resignation was confirmed after she was removed from full duties at the college, a move that led to several days of negotiations over her future with the University of the Arts London, of which the LCC is part.

Mr Clifford told THE that he had advised Professor Kemp to break her silence and put across her side of the story. He was not paid for his advice.

Professor Kemp was unavailable for comment.

Figures obtained by THE show that applications by UK and European Union students to the LCC had fallen from 5,343 for the 2011-12 academic year to 3,825 for 2012-13, as of 1 February.

The UAL as a whole - which is charging annual tuition fees of £9,000 across its six constituent colleges - suffered a 17.4 per cent drop in undergraduate applications by the national 15 January deadline.

Of English universities that had more than 1,000 applicants, the only one to have suffered a larger percentage decline than the LCC was the University for the Creative Arts. Its applications fell by 29.7 per cent.

Meanwhile, UAL's senior management has drawn criticism for not acting on expressions of concern about the LCC's running.

Alan Sekers, an associate lecturer in media at the college, revealed that in May 2010 he wrote to Sir John Tusa, chair of UAL's governors, about a "climate of fear" at LCC.

In reply, Nigel Carrington, the university's rector, wrote saying that employees had "statutory protection against arbitrary dealings from their employers".

He added that he had passed on Mr Sekers' concerns to the director of human resources at the institution.

Meanwhile, a UAL spokeswoman confirmed that Professor Kemp's resignation will not divert the LCC's plans to axe 16 courses (including four bachelor's degrees that will stop taking new students in 2013), six administrative staff and seven technical workers.

Elizabeth Rouse, UAL's deputy rector for academic matters, has taken over as the LCC's interim head of college.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com.

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